Data compiled by Thomson Reuters IP & Science suggests that Samsung and its partners are ramping up research and development for auto technology. Two-thirds of their combined 1,804 US patent filings related to electric vehicles and electric components for cars coming since 2010.
The reason that no-one has heard about it is because Samsung has not yet landed significant business.
LG recently announced a major supply agreement with General Motors and Nvidia claims its chips will be in more than 30 million cars in the next three to four years.
IHS analyst Danny Kim said Samsung does not yet have a unified, group-wide approach to building its supplier presence in the industry.
“Samsung needs a serious commitment to drive the synergies between all competent organisations within Samsung Group,” he said.
Oddly Samsung has some history in the industry, but its experience has been bad. Ten years ago it flogged its debt-laden carmaking unit to Renault. But in 2010 it had another crack at the auto industry, identifying car batteries as one of its five growth businesses.
To be fair, Samsung SDI C is the world’s number 6 electric car battery maker and can count BMW, Chrysler and Volkswagen among its chums.
The Samsung patent filings show a wide range of technologies including a drowsy-driving detection system, an alert system for break-in attempts and a transparent display for directions and traffic information.
Samsung Electro-Mechanics created a dedicated team to sell components such as camera modules to new auto clients and says it would consider acquisitions to boost car-related businesses.
Samsung Display has cited the auto industry as a potential growth area and has been testing its OLED displays with BMW and auto parts maker Continental.
Samsung Electronics could catch up by taking the one-stop-shop approach, similar to that of LG Electronics, by working with sister companies to combine offerings such as batteries, chips, sensors and software such as the Tizen operating system into a single package, analysts say.
Analysts suggest it could speed things up by acquiring established players such as Japan’s Renesas Electronics. This would allow Samsung to provide an entire platform and not just a single component.